Saturday, April 12, 2014
This has become challenging on the whole parenting a teenager front. Right now, I have a teen who I have a hard time relating to most of the time. Yes, I know, everyone is going to say "No parent can relate to their teen", but I think this is different. I stepped in at the 11th hour. I didn't have any opportunity to mold her into who she currently is, I just took what someone else had already molded and attempted to do my best. She is a great kid, but sometimes I can't understand her. She's not observant. She never sees a need and fills it. She makes a lot of excuses for why she doesn't do things or can't do things instead of realizing that she could do those things if she spent less time making all of the excuses. Often she finds herself wholly without fault in all situations where she makes mistakes, despite the fact that she has total control over them. I love her, but it's a challenge. It's a challenge to turn off the voice in my head that wants to shout "I HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND I COULD DO IT SO WHY CAN'T YOU?" and temper it for a more gentle "Maybe next time think about...." that I hope reads as a message that she does have some ownership in most situations. I'm struggling to smile and stay patient as my advice is constantly ignored, and my predictions of what will happen if her course stays the same come true over and over. I struggle with guiding her to make good decisions while knowing she's ignoring me and will just make bad ones. I know making mistakes is part of learning and growing, but does she have to make ALL of them? Can't she listen on the big things and then screw up by running out of gas on her way to work or something? I don't know how to guide someone gently. Jason is better at this than I am. I want to put my foot down and force her down the right path in some situations, because I've been through enough in my life to see the end game of the current one. I want to shout at her. I want to tell her she's being an idiot when she is being an idiot. I want to ask why she insists on making the same mistakes over and over without learning from them. I want to schedule her life and manage her time for her since she isn't great at doing it herself. I want her to have an easier path than I had, because I didn't have anyone to point these things out for me, or guide me, or tell me they had been exactly where I was and knew a better way. The problem is, you can't control people. You can only control yourself. That can be really hard sometimes.
I know this bleeds into other areas of my life as well. I had a brief e-mail exchange with a former friend this week. She and I used to be really close, or at least I thought we were. I think maybe I had more value and investment in the friendship than she did, and I just didn't realize it. But, due to some outside forces, we were exchanging a few messages and I realized that my current parenting struggles emulate my past friendship struggles with this person. In the exchange, she said something along the lines of "I've always had a strong support system in my life, and because of that, I don't think I realized you didn't and that you needed one, and you expected it to be me". Not an exact quote, but the general idea. As I read that, I sat there with my jaw slightly agape. I felt bewildered and found myself wondering "How could you NOT have realized that?". I was under the impression that everyone I was truly close to kind of knew that. I thought I had made it pretty clear to those who were trusted enough to know my life story. I was taken aback by that one statement. She didn't know? How could she not have known? What did I do to make it unclear? We were best friends for years, I just didn't understand. Then I started thinking about it in context with some of my other bewilderment with other people and realized, maybe she didn't know. Maybe, even though I said and demonstrated time and time again that I had to create an alternative support system for myself, she wasn't listening. Maybe it was a case of being a person who wasn't always observant. Maybe, like my teenager, this person was not able to see outside of herself to recognize a need in someone else because her life was different and her priorities were different, and no matter what I said, it would never really be clear because just as I was struggling to relate to her, she may have been struggling to relate to me. Does that make me go "Oh, well then everything that happened between us is fine now"? No. I still wish she had been that person who could see and understand. I still struggle with accepting that difference between us, because it's not what I would have done. But it does make me realize that just because my life and my struggles are important to me, it doesn't mean they will be important to everyone. Heck, I acknowledge that they shouldn't all be important to everyone, but I also need to understand that even the big stuff isn't going to always matter to other people. I just struggle with that because other people's stuff all matters to me. Even the little things are kind of important to me. I often find myself carrying the crosses of others without being asked because, to me, it seems like the right thing to do. Not everyone is me. Not everyone is going to do that. I just need to figure out how to accept that in others. It's not easy.
I guess the point is, I don't know how to understand people who don't feel things the way I do, or see things the way I do, or appreciate things the way I do. I don't know how to accept people who make excuses instead of owning their actions. I don't know how to make that ok, and then never call them out on it. I don't know how to understand self absorption, or anyone who can't look at someone else's struggle and say "I know you didn't ask, but that looks heavy, can I help you carry it?" because it's what I would do, and I don't understand others who don't view people the same way. I'm trying. I really am. I've made it two years in a house with a teenager I didn't raise, undoing some of the mistakes my predecessor made, and I haven't killed her. I am working so hard to accept. To bite my tongue where I should. To allow people to make excuses, or manage time poorly, or learn from their own mistakes. I'm trying. It's just so damn hard sometimes.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
I know that this is "a process". That the body doesn't heal overnight. I get that. I'm just starting to get worn down by the fact that I keep going in and doing all of this work, going through all of the pain that they inflict on me, and then seeing zero progress from one week to the next. I've tried to embrace my inner bad ass and just grit my teeth through it all, letting them tug at my arm like it's not attached to the rest of me while trying not to wince or grimace or swear too much. The truth of the matter is, it fucking hurts. Like, I know people tell you that PT is painful, but I think your average person going through PT is dealing with something relatively minor, like pulling a muscle in their shoulder, or pain in their hip. I think the ante gets up significantly when you throw in an injury with scar tissue involved. You hear that term a lot, but what you don't realize when you're hearing it is that to get through the whole scar tissue roadblock, you have to fucking tear the tissue. Literally, rip it. Take a moment to imagine how fabulous that feels. What seems to be "special" about my situation is that usually when scar tissue pulls apart or tears, the person stretching you out can feel it happen, because the joint gives a little bit and things loosen up. With mine, it's even more exciting. With mine, you can hear it. There is an audible popping, snapping or ripping noise when they break through my scar tissue. I'm told that's not terribly common. In fact, the first time it happened the physical therapist said "Wow, for me to hear it means we're breaking through some seriously bad tissue". Gee, awesome. Just lucky, I guess. I think it freaked him out though, because after I left he called my surgeon's office to make sure they weren't doing anything that could damage me further. So there's an example of how rare it is. Woo! I'm exceptional!
It also sucks that I can feel my muscles and tendons tugging against the anchors that have been inserted into my bone every time they work on me. I can feel precisely where he anchored each muscle, and I can feel everything pulling against those anchors every single time. It's a disgusting sensation. My big worry is that even after I'm "normal" I'll still be able to feel that. I would prefer not to.
I think the uncertainty of things is what's heightening my anxiety. Sure, I'm told that I should be able to make a full recovery to normal, or at least my surgeon thinks so. I've gotten some skeptical looks from my physical therapist on that front. I've also seen zero progress in weeks, no matter what they do to me. I am starting to worry that it's all a load of crap and I'm going to be one armed for the rest of my life. Then I try to imagine not being able to do normal things that I think of now as "I can't do that until my arm gets better...." becoming a permanent situation. Stupid things, like washing my hair with both hands, or putting on a necklace. Then it's big things like picking up my niece and nephews to hug them. Or if we have our own kids, not being able to properly hold one because of my arm. Not being able to walk Ronan because I can't trust him not to chase a rabbit and pull me over onto my arm. Not being able to hug anyone properly because I can't bend my arm in quite enough. Those are the things that scare me. I'd be better at dealing with the PT if it meant I could be guaranteed to get those things back.
I know the road is supposed to be long, and I'm at the beginning of it, but I keep feeling like I'm already falling behind. Mostly I just want to be back to normal.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Now I'm about a month post-surgery and things are starting to get back to normal a little bit. Not normal enough for my liking, since I still don't have full mobility of my arm, and I probably won't have it for a while since they had to re-anchor all of my stupid muscles and now it's new tissue that has to learn elasticity. Thanks, muscles. So I can't do a lot of normal stuff like lifting or holding anything with my left hand that has too much weight. I can't bend my arm enough to wash my hair with both hands, or fix my shirt when it's all twisted around on my right arm, but I can lift a little more, and my grip is slowly getting better. Things still hurt, but at least I can notice some small amount of progress.
The thing about this whole busted arm thing is that it's made me see myself, and my life a lot differently. I've come to appreciate Jason immensely, because when I had to be taken care of he did it without complaint. Even when it was me waking him up at 3 a.m. to get me more pain meds. I'm not good at letting people look after me or losing my independence. I hate it, actually, but he did so much to make life easier, and he never made me feel like I was a baby who needed to be taken care of. I loved him for that. I'm slowly learning to be dependent on someone else, and while it's a big struggle for me, it's nice to have someone who doesn't make it feel like dependence. I've also learned that sometimes, even if you're sick or injured and can't do certain things, some people still won't step up and do anything without an engraved invitation, and that was frustrating.
I think the worst part is that for some reason, I can't shake the flashback of everything that happened. I have dreams about falling and cracking my face on the ice at least once a week. Even though my arm got the biggest injury, I seem to remember smacking my face on the ice the most vividly and even now if I think about it, my nose starts to hurt where I smashed it. I start to physically feel panic when I think about having to go in for surgery, even though there are no surgeries on my horizon. I will spend a day minding my own business and then out of the blue I'll get this image of me falling, and start thinking about how much worse it could have been, and then I get upset by that idea even though I'm really grateful that it wasn't worse. I don't know why I can't seem to shake the memory of it all, but it's proven harder than I thought it would be.
I have been trying to look for the bright side of things. It could have been worse, but it wasn't. It could have been Jason, or my friend Scott, but it wasn't. I'd honestly rather it be me than someone else, since at least I've been through surgery and all of that before. The damage is temporary and everyone thinks I'll be back to normal without any problem. I'm a month out from the surgery date and I'm sitting here, typing with access to both hands, gaining a small amount of mobility back in my elbow, which is awesome. I was only on pain meds for 4 days total, including the day of the surgery. I'm able to pretty much shower and dress myself now, and I can do most of the cooking I would normally do, with just a few things that I find myself needing help with. All in all, I could be in a very different place right now. That doesn't mean I don't have my moments of frustration where I get upset and think I'll never be able to do certain things by myself again, or where I break down a little and feel like I haven't made enough progress, but when I get my head out of that frustrated space, I have to admit that I've come a long way, even though I have a long way left to go. I just keep telling myself all of this is temporary, and in a year I'll look back and it'll seem like it never happened.
Monday, January 6, 2014
We've been working with our own theater company, but that is proving difficult due to lack of help, lack of money, and lack of dedication from members. It's sad, and I don't know how to fix it, but I know that we can't keep the train moving all by ourselves. That's just the reality of the situation. But helping hands don't appear, so we're left floating alone. I hope that improves, but I'm not really so sure it will.
Mostly I look back on 2013 with a lot of sadness. Friends went through really hard times that I wish I could have helped them with more than I was able. Family connections in some cases became more strained, more brittle, more prone to cracks. Even friendships became that way with some people. Life as a parent to a college freshman started, and I can't help feeling that I've failed over and over in so many ways when it comes to that piece of my life. I'm sure there are always struggles, but this year I've been faced with a lot of exasperation and a lot of questioning why I talk when no one listens. It's been hard. It's easy to want to give up.
I think, overall, 2013 has felt like the year of not enough. Not enough time. Not enough help. Not enough love. Not enough cooperation. Not enough kindness. Not enough honesty. Not enough forgiveness. Just...not enough. And this isn't isolated to myself. That illness of "not enough" runs rampant through my friends, my family, my peers. It seems like everyone needed more of something last year, and it kept dancing out of their reach.
For some reason I feel like this year might be a year of change. I don't know why. I just feel like after two years of hard times, something has to get better, right? Maybe the theater company will suddenly get the help it has desperately needed. Maybe Jason will get a new job. Maybe friends who are struggling will find their way to an easier path. Maybe some positives will start cropping up in abundance for people who so desperately need them. I hope that happens. I am grateful for all of the positives that did come out of last year, but this year I hope they aren't so hard earned. I hope that happiness finds its way to the people in my life, and that it spreads through them like wildfire.
It's been a long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.....
Sunday, January 5, 2014
So we have snow. We had snow to usher in the New Year, and I imagine we'll have snow for months to come. It makes me appreciate Spring a bit more, to be honest. When we have mild winters, I just begin to take Spring for granted. Now I think I'll be looking forward to it, and that will be nice. Just about two more months before we can start having some hope that we'll thaw out of all of this. Is it just me, or did fall go by very fast this year?
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
The other day, the incomparable Keely-Rain posted these tweets, which showed up in my Twitter feed as I was scrolling along killing some time at work while waiting for a meeting to start. What followed was a severely truncated Twitter discussion on the subject, choked off by our 140 character limit. This is a subject that has hit home for me a few times, primarily because there have been people in my life who seem to think that if you're just positive about enough things, the world will get better. I find this way of thinking to be detrimental, in the long run.
This idea, popularized by books like The Secret and media moguls like Oprah, postulates that if you just think positively about the things that you want in life, the universe will give those things to you. It's really a consumerist and commercialized way of thinking. If you want a new house, think positively and the universe will find a way to give you one. The problem with this line of thought is that, while I'm sure that thinking positively does a lot to improve your mood or keep you focused, it doesn't do a whole lot in terms of actually creating forward momentum for any individual. In fact, the idea that you can just think positively and good things will happen is the most passive way to participate in your own life. It's a way of feeling like you're actually doing something without actually doing anything. For someone like myself, who is decidedly not religious, it's sort of akin to praying. Praying is feeling like you're doing good and enacting change without actually doing anything more than talking to empty space. I'm sure if you're faith driven, you do feel like there is a god out there listening and responding to your prayers, but for a cynic like me it's just a way of feeling like something good is being done without standing up and taking action.
Principles taught in books like The Secret allow for the every day man to think he's going to get exactly what he feels he deserves, and moreover, it takes responsibility off of that individual to take action in their own life. If you don't get the thing you want, it's because you weren't thinking positively enough, or the universe wasn't able to sense that you wanted it. It wholly removes the ideas of hard work, fiscal responsibility, and education. These ideas give people to basically be lazy while still believing that they will get what they want. It appeals to individuals who are content to behave passively in a world that does not reward passivity. But when you think about the vast majority of people that these ideas are heralded by, with the exception of Oprah, it's people who are always looking for the easy way out of something. Magic weight loss plans, get rich quick schemes and the like. Or people who don't vote because no one "represents their ideals" while at the same time those individuals make zero effort to find and promote a candidate who would represent those ideals. This is a school of thought housed in the minds of those who believe that by simply existing in this world, they have done enough. Now the world owes them something in return. Their charitable contributions to the planet are small, if they exist at all, and yet they still feel somehow entitled to a world that rewards them for their inaction. In the long run, it's a little sad.
Ideas like this are hard for someone like me, who has always been taught to stand their ground and create change if no one else will. I can't understand these passive ideals that so many embrace. In truth, it feels like a very American way of thought. We've passed by the idea that we should work toward a greater good long ago. Our capitalist mentality has the majority of the nation looking out for #1, and organizations who work to protect the average person are quickly being broken apart. The word "union", for example, is a dirty word in most companies, and as the unions have dissolved, wages and benefits have also dwindled away. We no longer care about each other as long as we are taken care of ourselves. This leaves a lot of room for these self fulfilling ideals to creep into the edges of society and take root. Think positive and you get what you want. Don't worry about working hard for it, or being responsible so that you get it. Just think about it. It's as if we're all drinking the kool-aid of Harold Hill's "Think System" like a bunch of country yokels from a stage musical instead of being active, responsible members of society. The willingness to remain passive in your own life is just a concept that I can't get behind. What the world needs is people who stand up. People who take action. People who, above all, work to create the change they want to see in this world. Positive thinking doesn't get you anywhere in that arena. I think there's merit in thinking positively that you will succeed in your efforts, but just sitting around thinking that things will be good eventually is never going to be enough.
It's as if no one remembers reading Dr. Seuss as a child. The Lorax probably said it best when he said "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
I think what we need is less positive thought, more caring a whole awful lot.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Simon isn't the first pet I've lost, but he is the first one I've had to make any sort of end of life decisions about. Growing up, my family pets were typically dumber than your average rock and had a habit of Darwin Awarding themselves out of existence far before we ever had to make a choice for them. The exception was my parents ancient cocker spaniel, Lady, who was obscenely old and one day just disappeared. I assume she wandered off somewhere to die on her own. We never saw her again, at any rate. Simon is the first one who lived to a point where we had to decide what was going to happen to him. Two weeks ago, he ate two socks. Things were looking pretty grim at that point. He had stopped eating and drinking (probably because socks are a filling delicacy) and once he passed the socks, he was still uninterested in food for a few days so we thought that was going to be it. Then he rebounded, started eating and drinking again. Then we noticed his balance was all off, and he couldn't really stand or walk. Then he started barking all the time, for unknown reasons. After 4 days of barking and not walking, we had to make a choice that none of us wanted to make.
As heartbreaking as it is to lose a pet, and believe me, it's akin to losing a family member, it's even more heartbreaking to watch your loved ones lose a pet. Through this process, I've been more resolved than Jason was. I knew it was time, and I knew we couldn't keep taking care of him much longer if things continued to get worse. As it was, we were already diapering him multiple times a day, carrying him up and down stairs, picking him up off the ground when he had to go outside because he couldn't stand anymore, cleaning poo on a daily basis, carrying him across the wood floor because he couldn't keep his balance on it, and a variety of other things. All I could think was that if he fell and broke a limb, what would we do? How long were we going to be able to continue to look after him and keep him safe and comfortable? Jason saw it differently. Jason never gives up on anyone, which is part of what makes me love him so much. Plus, this is HIS dog. I wasn't going to push him to make a choice, but offered to take the lead when he felt like it was time. I knew it was hard enough to say the words to me, let alone to veterinary clinic receptionist. And at that point, we began the process of saying goodbye. I held together so that Jason could fall apart if he needed to, and when we got home that afternoon, Simon had been laying in poo for what appeared to be several hours. Jason scooped him up, took him upstairs and carefully bathed him as I scrubbed the floor. I went upstairs to find Simon resting on our bathroom counter top, lying on towels, being carefully blow dried. Jason just kept standing there, brushing and blow drying, and then brushing again, pampering the dog more than we would have dared as of late out of fear of hurting him. By the time Jason was done, Simon was as clean and as well groomed as he's been in the past year, and I kept having to leave the room to stop myself from crying. What I saw wasn't just a man giving his dog a bath, it was a good friend saying goodbye to his companion in the most gentle way possible. By giving him as much dignity as he could before sending him away. No regrets to be had. Just a last memory for Simon of his best friend gently giving him a bath and showing him some affection. Even now, as I'm remembering it, I'm fighting tears.
Jason rode in the back seat with him, Simon resting on a blanket, his head pressed against Jason's leg, looking weary and resigned. I cried on the way there, quietly, in the driver's seat where no one had to notice, and then I pulled myself together to go in and set things up with the vet. Once we got in the room, he just laid there. No fight, no curiosity, no sniffing out other dogs. He just laid there, almost as if he knew, and was ready.
It was quick, and oddly clinical. I kept waiting for someone in the office to be empathetic, but it was all....procedural. Efficient, clean. A small amount of sympathy at the end from the vet tech, but on the whole it was just sterile. We all cried on the way home, and the house felt more empty when we came back to it. Oddly still. More quiet. It's still sad, and probably will be for a while. But I like to think he's happier. I like to think it's beautiful over there. I don't know where there is, but I believe it exists, and I hope it's beautiful.